Navy officer pleads guilty to desertion for leaving post while ship in Florida

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HALIFAX - An officer in the Royal Canadian Navy who left his post on a supply vessel pleaded guilty to a charge of desertion at a court martial today in Halifax.

Lt. Derek De Jong entered the plea during a brief hearing before Col. Michael Gibson, a military judge.

Court heard De Jong left the HMCS Preserver on Sept. 17, 2012, while it was in Key West, Fla., and returned to Halifax, where he turned himself in to military police.

Outside court, the commander of Canadian Forces Base Halifax said the original charge was that De Jong was absent without authority but he elected to face a court martial and the charge was changed to desertion.

Capt. Angus Topshee also said De Jong has made allegations he faced harassment on board the vessel.

The maximum sentence for desertion under the National Defence Act is life in prison.

Organizations: Royal Canadian Navy, National Defence

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Florida, Key West

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